Music from Big Pink liner notes
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Music is where you find it or where you make it. The band made it in a middle-class type, ranch-style house that looks as if it should be in the heart of suburbia but which instead is on an isolated mountaintop in West Saugerties, New York. Pink painted, "Big Pink" named, the band has lived there since the spring of 1967, making music in the cellar.
They shook the dust of the road from their feet, about seven years of dust, and for the last nearly two years they have lived mainly in Big Pink. Spending their time playing music, amongst themselves, sometimes with Bob Dylan.
It was after years of playing all over the States and Canada, first of all with Arkansas-born Canadian rock king Ronnie Hawkins - the band gravitated to him one at a time until it was Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks - and that lasted about three years. Then came more time, hard times too, playing all over the place as Levon and the Hawks until somewhere, somehow Dylan heard of them. He wanted them to play at the Hollywood Bowl with him - and then came more road dust and this time the dust of everywhere from Molasses, Texas to Stockholm, Sweden to London.
It was with Dylan that the band found itself, but to start with as Robbie says: " ... we'd heard of him but we weren't into that kind of music and I didn't really know who he was or that he was that famous. I didn't think we could play with each other at all. Then we jammed together and a lot of things happened. We've had a great effect on each other. Dylan brought us into a whole new thing and I guess he got something from us."
The association with Dylan, fruitful though it has been, has not affected their own identity as a group. They play as and what they want to play and it comes out so good that to even think of labels seems a waste of time. They imitate no one. They neither want to nor need to. They all sing and Robbie plays lead guitar, Richard the piano, Levon (the only one of the five born in the states, all of the others being Canadian) the drums, Rick bass and Garth the organ.
About their name, or rather lack of it. They explain that where they live there just are not that many groups of musicians around so everyone just refers to them as 'the band'. When it came to making their first recording for Capitol they worked on the idea of a name, but decided that the whole thing of names had been overdone. Settling on the names their parents had picked for them seemed a reasonable way out. When using those names becomes too much of a mouthful, everyone just follows the neighbourhood line and so we have the band.
A final comment on the band's attitude to music, and so to their music. When asked how seriously they take it Robbie spoke for them all when he replied, "just seriously enough to satisfy us, enough so we can smile at one another when we're through playing."
The smiles of pleasure are not theirs alone.